At CRIE we get a lot of questions…
Do you think you should learn basic Spanish before moving to Costa Rica? We think you should.
Many expats that make the move to live in Costa Rica don’t put learning basic Spanish, before moving to the country, as a priority on their preparation list.
But, imagine this scenario, where you get stopped in your hometown by someone who doesn’t speak English and they ask you a question that you don’t understand. In most cases, you would probably ask them “Do you speak English? Because I don’t…”, right?
There have been many instances where expats have been seen yelling in frustration while trying to communicate with Spanish-speaking Ticos. They, the Ticos, didn’t have a clue as to what was being yelled at them. And, they simply walked away saying nothing or waving off the expat. These expats definitely did not learn basic Spanish before moving to Costa Rica.
Many tourists and expats make the mistake of assuming the local citizens speak English. There are many Costa Ricans that do speak English. But, they are not obligated to do so and they only do it out of courtesy. That courtesy comes because they probably think you are a tourist.
Ticos frequently speak English in many tourist locations. But, Spanish is the primary language in local stores, food markets, malls, and most rural areas. If you are a living in Costa Rica or planning to live in the country, it is a matter of having respect for the locals and it makes living in Costa Rica so much easier for you if you learn basic Spanish before moving to Costa Rica.
How to Learn Basic Spanish
Learning a new language as a child comes easily but, as an adult, it can be difficult. If you are going to make a move and live in Costa Rica, you can immerse yourself into learning the language or take private classes. For immersion, you can dedicate yourself to learning a few words per day and practice using online videos (i.e. YouTube). You can also take private Spanish classes where you will have the support of a language professional to guide and aide you.
Practice your basic Spanish as much as you can. You should practice before and after you arrive in Costa Rica. You can practice by translating everyday common objects you see into Spanish. There are many resources online to help you and remember, the more you practice the better you will become.